Stringfellow Acid Pits, USA

Labelled as the largest civil lawsuit in the nation’s history, pitting neighbours of the toxic site sued the companies that dumped there and the government agencies that allowed it


<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns"><div class="less">The Stringfellow Superfund Site is located in the city of Jurupa Valley, California. The city includes the community of Glen Avon, a primarily white, working-class community at the time of the incident. Between 1956 and 1972, the Stringfellow Quarry Company operated a hazardous waste disposal facility on this site about a mile from homes in Glen Avon. During this time, more than 34 million gallons of liquid industrial waste (including spent acids and caustics, metals, solvents, and pesticide byproducts from metal finishing, electroplating, and pesticide production) were disposed in unlined ponds [6, 3]. This quarry was used as a toxic waste dump by numerous Southern California manufacturers, including McDonnell Douglas Corp, Montrose Chemical Co., General Electric, Northrop and Rockwell International [4, 5]. </div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">James Stringfellow, the owner of the property where the pits were located atop the Jurupa mountains (in the drainage path of 250 acres of the canyon watershed and at the head of Pyrite Creek), was initially wary of using his property for a toxic <br/><br/>dump, worrying about the chemicals that might be emptied there and the management procedures the dump would require. However, the State of California assured Stringfellow the dump was harmless so he complied. Over time, regulations at the pits became increasingly lax [8].<br/><br/>Liquid wastes in these disposal pits were discharged into town several times during the 1960s and 1970s following heavy rains to avoid a breaching of the dam in Pyrite Canyon [7]. Following the discharge of wastes from the ponds, site-related contaminants were detected in surface water flowing in Pyrite Creek as far as four miles downstream of the ponds [6]. Residents of Glen Avon were not informed of this planned discharge nor were they given information about the health risks associated with it. Children played in the foamy waters that flowed through town [8] and many residents began experiencing acute health problems [7]. The children of Peggy Newman (mother and activist, leader of Concerned Neighbors in Action) experienced headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and asthma among other symptoms and they attended the community school near the Creek. In May 1983 statistical analysis found the birth defect rate in Glen Avon was double that of Riverside County in 1980 and 1981 [8].<br/><br/>Numerous environmental sampling efforts have been completed since the 1970s and testing has shown that site contaminants were released into soil, surface water, and groundwater beginning shortly after the facility began operation in 1956 [6]. Cleanup costs were estimated at more than $300 million [3]. There are more than 400 active groundwater monitoring wells and piezometers at the site. Contaminants include a variety of chemicals such as trichloroethene (TCE) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), SVOCs, pesticides, sulfate, perchlorate, 1,4-dioxane, and metals including cadmium, nickel, chromium, copper, manganese, and zinc [6]. One monitoring well found hexavalent chromium had migrated to Glen Avon Elementary School. Community pressure from a group led by Ruth Kirkby, Mothers of Glen Avon, led to the closure of the open-air pits on December 13, 1972 [8].<br/><br/>As health impacts became apparent in the Glen Avon community following the release of toxic waste from the pits into the surrounding area, women and other members of the community formed Concerned Neighbors in Action (CNA), demanding cleanup and compensation. Mobilization efforts included highly visible protests outside the homes of politicians and industrial polluters in the city of Riverside. CNA pushed for and helped win the establishment of the State Superfund Program and were the first to establish a Community Advisory Committee that helped provide communities a way to participate in decisions about toxic waste management. CNA was instrumental in winning the largest toxic tort case in U.S. history, announced in 1995. Even though the population of Glen Avon was largely white, Latino residents were part of the litigant pool and received compensation from the final settlement [7].<br/><br/>More than 100 PRPs have been identified. The EPA and the State of California filed a lawsuit in 1983 against 32 PRPs believed to be responsible for the costs of cleanup at the site. Eight agreements resulted from this between 1992 and 2004. Following litigation between the defendants and the State, the court ruled in 1995 that the State was a Responsible Party at the site and that its fair share of the costs is 100% (under State law, 60% under federal law) [6]. The State was found liable for contamination because it maintained them and promoted Stringfellow as an industrial and chemical waste disposal area. In 2001, the State announced it would reimburse the EPA $99.4 million for cleanup of the Stringfellow pits [4]. <br/><br/>To prevent contact with wastes or contaminated soil, the former disposal pits have been drained, covered, and fenced. Private drinking water supply wells have been closed and the community in the affected area provided with water from the local public utility.<br/><br/>The EPA, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) have carried out or funded cleanup work at the site since the 1970s. The State of California became the primary response party at the site in 2002 and has implemented all cleanup work through the DTSC. EPA is responsible for overseeing all remediation work at the site. Formal reviews are completed every five years to evaluate whether cleanup continues to protect human health and the environment and is achieving EPA’s cleanup goals. The next cleanup review will be conducted in 2015. <br/><br/>In 1993 this case was labelled as the largest civil lawsuit in the nation’s history, pitting neighbours of the toxic site against the companies that dumped there and the government agencies that allowed it [5]. It became a symbol of toxic threats to communities along with Love Canal in New York [1]. This issue spilled over into the political sphere as well, where members of the Environmental Protection Agency were determined to have mishandled the cleanups and tried to cover up their actions [2]. <br/><br/>Settlement checks were mailed on September 19, 1995 [8].<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td>Stringfellow Acid Pits, USA</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/united-states-of-america">United States of America </a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Province</td><td>California</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Site</td><td>Glen Avon</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Accuracy of Location</td><td>MEDIUM regional level</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Waste Management</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td><a href='/commodity/industrial-waste'>Industrial waste</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Details</td><td class="columns"><div class="less">Since the Glen Avon lawsuits were filed, more than $50 million has been awarded to the 3,800 plaintiffs through out-of-court settlements involving General Electric, aluminum manufacturer Alumax Inc., quarry owner James B. Stringfellow Jr., and others. [5] </div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">In the face of federal action, 18 of the largest corporate users of the dump agreed last summer to pay $150 million toward the cleanup of Stringfellow--a project that may cost upward of $750 million. The state of California was told to pay 75% of the final cost, a ruling that it is appealing. [5] <br/><br/>More than 400 active groundwater monitoring wells and piezometers at the site [6] <br/><br/>Groundwater near the former disposal pits is highly acidic with a pH as low as 2 [6] <br/><br/>Plume of contaminated groundwater extends about 5 miles from the former pits to the Santa Ana River [6] <br/><br/>About 35 million gallons of hazardous liquid industrial wastes were stored in the ponds at the Stringfellow site from 1956 to 1972 [3]. These were unlined ponds and spanned 17 acres [5] <br/><br/>Cleanup costs estimated at more than $300 million [3] <br/><br/>3,800 residents of Glen Avon sued potentially responsible parties (PRPs) [5] <br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Project Area (in hectares)</td><td>6.9</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Urban</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Potential Affected Population</td><td>4,000</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>01/01/1957</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Company Names or State Enterprises</td><td><a href='/company/mcdonnell-douglas-corp'>McDonnell Douglas Corp</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>PRP</small><br /><a href='/company/montrose-chemical-corp'>Montrose Chemical Corp</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>PRP</small><br /><a href='/company/general-electric-company'>General Electric Company <small>(GEC)</small></a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a><br /><a href='/company/northrop-grumman'>Northrop Grumman</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>PRP</small><br /><a href='/company/rockwell-international'>Rockwell International</a> from <a href='/country-of-company/united-states-of-america'><small>United States of America </small></a> - <small>PRP</small></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), State of California</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Concerned Neighbors in Action (CNA), Parents of Jurupa, Communities Against Toxic Wastes in Landfills</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>In REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>Local government/political parties<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities<br /> Women</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)<br /> Development of a network/collective action<br /> Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism<br /> Media based activism/alternative media<br /> Official complaint letters and petitions<br /> Street protest/marches</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>Stopped</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Compensation<br /> Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area<br /> Court decision (victory for environmental justice)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>Yes</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>Court cases were won in favour of the community where companies responsible for dumping the waste were made to pay millions of dollars through numerous settlements. The wrongs were not made right physically, but there was monetary compensation for damages.</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Legislations</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Stringfellow Consent Decree 12-09-03 [6]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://yosemite.epa.gov/r9/sfund/r9sfdocw.nsf/3dc283e6c5d6056f88257426007417a2/ffac34c1657e31288825700700810628!OpenDocument" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Toxic Waste Suit Settled for $18 Million : Environment: Glen Avon residents will receive payments for the dumping at Stringfellow Acid Pits. Agreement with aluminum firm is largest settlement yet in long battle.- LA Times June 4, 1991 [1]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://articles.latimes.com/1991-06-04/news/mn-186_1_glen-avon" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Settlements Reached on Toxic Dump in California - NY Times Dec 24, 1991 [2]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/24/us/settlements-reached-on-toxic-dump-in-california.html" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Insurers Found Liable in Stringfellow Cleanup- LA Times May 17, 2005 [3]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://articles.latimes.com/2005/may/17/local/me-iebriefs17.3" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> State to Pay $114.5 Million for Cleanup of Toxic Dumps<br />Pollution: The agreement involving the Stringfellow and Casmalia sites ends legal battle. -- LA Times May 1, 2001 [4]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://articles.latimes.com/2001/may/01/local/me-57923" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> A Tainted Legacy : Toxic Dump Site in Riverside County Has Sparked the Nation's Largest Civil Suit- LA Times Jan 10, 1993 [5]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://articles.latimes.com/1993-01-10/news/mn-1588_1_riverside-county" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> What Makes for Environmental Justice? Reconsidering Cases Written Out of the Narrative [7]<br />Brinda Sarathy Pitzer College, Claremont, CA Dec 3, 2011<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/bwep/colloquium/papers/Sarathy_Berkeley-EP-paper.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Radical Housewife Activism: Subverting the Toxic Public/Private Binary by Emma Merchant 2014 [8]<br/><a class="refanch small" href="file:///C:/Users/RACER1/Downloads/Radical%20Housewife%20Activism-%20Subverting%20the%20Toxic%20Public-Private%20B.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Passive Sampling Pilot Study Report: Stringfellow Hazardous Waste Site July 2009<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.clu-in.org/download/char/passsamp/stringfellowstudy.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Environmental Toxic/Tort: Newman v. Stringfellow<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.psinvestigates.com/Newman%20v%20Stringfellow.html" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> State’s $60 Million Stringfellow Acid Pits Win in High Court Could Cost Insurers Billions- August 2012<br/><a class="refanch small" href="http://www.allgov.com/usa/ca/news/where-is-the-money-going/states_60_million_stringfellow_acid_pits_win_in_high_court_could_cost_insurers_billions?news=762402" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Documents</td><td><table><tr><td><p><strong>Photograph of Pretreatment Plant</strong> Source: EPA<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/entire_pretreatment_site_epa.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>6,000 gallon tanker truck bringing waste in</strong> Source: EPA<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/6_000_gallon_tanker_truck_epa.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>Pyrite Creek bed as it flow through Glen Avon community</strong> Source: EPA<br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/pyrite_creek_bed_as_it_passes_through_glen_avon_community_epa.jpg" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>Stringfellow Update May 2011 DTSC</strong> <br/><a class="refanch small" href="https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Stringfellow_FS_2011Update_0511.pdf" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Comments</td><td>This is a Superfund site. More information about Superfund sites is available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/ </td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>Bernadette Grafton and Paul Mohai, [email protected] and [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>07/05/2015</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>
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